Alcohol companies, by nature of their product, have a greater degree of permission from consumers. People bring their beverage of choice into golden moments of relaxation, celebration, and even hard times. In a hotly competitive market such as alcoholic beverages, it’s vital to capitalize on this permission and the social nature of sharing a drink with a friend.
Just as a smart bartender never keeps regulars at arms’ length, beverage companies should consider exactly how they go about letting their drinkers know that they appreciate the choice.
I’d like to extend my kudos to Rory Finlay, CMO of Beam Global Wine & Spirits, for recognizing that “buzz” is just noise unless it’s in the hands of your biggest fans. Here’s an excerpt from a recent Ad Age article :
Mr. Finlay wouldn’t say how all of this will play out this fall, but he pointed to several past Beam initiatives he said best represented its new approach. One is boutique bourbon Maker’s Mark’s brand-ambassador program, which cultivates brand fanaticism by identifying and rewarding so-called “brand evangelists” with invitations to VIP events, inside-the-distillery info and even a chance to get a bottle of bourbon from a personalized barrel. “They’re the best in class at cultivating brand fans,” Mr. Finlay said. “They’ve been able to get an incredibly high amount of talk.”
What’s at the root of creating brand fans? It starts with acknowledgement. Look no further than an elaborate version of an age-old social convention: The thank you note. While it’s a little more complicated than that, the consumer’s core emotional response is the same: This brand cares about me.
Let your thank you note take the form of an invitation to an exclusive arrangement or club centered around the brand. Those that join receive all of the lavish attention that a national beverage brand may provide. Identify within the program those that are most active, and develop even more exclusive ways to show your appreciation.
Can you smell the metrics in the air? You should. Connecting your new friends through a digital platform (be it web- or mobile device-based) is central to understanding who’s vocal, and what will reinforce their love of the beverage. The data you aggregate can become a key driver in choosing, organizing, and marketing face-to-face social events offline.
Let’s raise a glass to beverage companies that understand the concept of consumers as brand managers .
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